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Five in Five: Wal-Mart Focuses on Small Businesses

Who says Wal-Mart isn't making inroads into the District? After deciding Brentwood, which just so happens to be in Ward 5, was not the right place to call home a few years ago, the giant discount chain has come bearing gifts. It is giving free advertising to several businesses in Ward 5 through an initiative called Wal-Mart's Jobs and Opportunity Zones.

The five businesses selected will appear in "Small/Minority Business Spotlights" through local business advertising and on the in-store radio network.

The store owes the community that much, said D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5). Afterall, he said they dissed the community, but more than 60 percent of their workforce in Landover Hills lives in the District. Thus, his quest to get something out of the deal.

Thomas, well aware that Wal-Mart and organized labor are at odds, said he knows even mentioning the store will raise a red flag with labor activists.

"I needed to go after them to see how they could support revenue in the District," Thomas said, adding that the store has no plans right now to move to Ward 5. "How do these big businesses support small businesses and community growth? It wasn't about Wal-Mart coming to D.C. If that was to happen, we would try to open negotiations and make sure it's in the best interst of the District."

In addition to the Landover Hills store, there are nine Wal-Marts across the country that participate in this promotion, which is meant to increase jobs and economic development by focusing on five stores in one of the stores' zones each quarter.

Wal-Mart officials and the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce selected Ward 5, then worked with Thomas to identify the businesses. The list: Bobby's Q, 3301 12th Street NE; Bubba's Muscogee Restaurant 1544 Rhode Island Avenue NE; Café Sureia, 3619 12th Street NE; Capital Construction Group LLC, 3321 12th Street NE; and Windows Café & Market, 101 Rhode Island Avenue NW.

Helping to pick these businesses is one perk of office. It is also a way for the council member to influence people and win friends. Thomas said he's picking up where his predecessor, Vincent B. Orange Sr., left off. He's going to Las Vegas to the shopping center convention soon to try to convince some of the stores Orange was negotiating with to still look at Ward 5, Fort Lincoln in particular.

Yolanda Woodlee

By Yolanda Woodlee  |  March 31, 2008; 6:55 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council , Economic Development  
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